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Ayala Land unveils P65-B business district project in QC

MANILA, Philippines–Property giant Ayala Land Inc. is investing P65 billion in a new large-scale mixed-use urban hub comprising about 45 skyscrapers at the heart of what is envisioned to be the central business district of Quezon City.

The new integrated complex called “Vertis North” will rise within the next 10 to 15 years on a 29-hectare property right beside TriNoMa mall contributed by the state-owned National Housing Authority in exchange for a share of development proceeds. The partnership, which is yet to be incorporated, will be 72 percent controlled by ALI and 28 percent owned by the NHA.

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“In QC, we feel that being the largest city (in Metro Manila) in terms of area and population, it truly deserves having a central business district,” ALI president Antonino Aquino said in a press briefing on Thursday.

Vertis North is seen creating close to 200,000 new jobs during its life cycle, 35,000 of which will be filled in the next three to four years under the first phase.

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The first phase, which is seen to cost P12 billion, will bring in new office, retail and hotel components within a seven-hectare land area. This initial phase is seen boosting ALI’s recurring income base as it will open up a total gross floor area of 220,000 square meters for business process outsourcing firms, hotel and retail shops.

Half of the 45 buildings that will rise in Vertis North will be office towers while the other half will be residential condominium buildings. It will also have ALI’s boutique hotel brand Kukun and some retail developments, Aquino said.

Asked to differentiate Vertis North from ALI’s other central business districts like Makati and Bonifacio Global City, Aquino said Quezon City had the largest number of government offices that can therefore attract a number of support agencies and businesses. He added that this area was suitable to be a transportation hub, being close to North Luzon Expressway.

“In the end, I would call Vertis North as the gateway to the North (of Luzon), the biggest and modest modern development that will be catering to the north,” Aquino said.

The Ayala project is part of the 252-hectare central business district planned by the government for Quezon City covering properties within the North and East Triangles and the Veterans Memorial area as identified in a World Bank study.

Vertis North, in particular, sits on a land contributed by NHA valued at P6 billion. “We were able to convert idle land into something productive,” Chito Cruz, NHA general manager, said during the briefing.

Cruz said the government agency was expecting to gain P12 billion during the life span of the project, thus doubling the value of its investment. Proceeds will in turn be used to build shelter for families living in “endangered areas.”

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To be able to unlock values faster than the 10 to 15-year lifespan of the project and bankroll housing projects sooner, Cruz said the NHA may opt to sell part of its interest in the venture or “securitize” some of the assets. Securitization means that the NHA may issue debt instruments backed by future cash flow from its interest in Vertis North.

ALI bagged the joint venture project with the NHA in 2009 but it took the property developer some time to break ground because of the colony of informal settlers. At present, 6,500 out of 10,000 families had been relocated. In terms of land area, about 15 out of 29 hectares of the NHA property had been cleared for development.

“Quezon City is fast becoming a center of gravity for economic developments as it works to be at par with international business standards,” Aquino said.

About two hectares of Vertis North will be earmarked for open space, Aquino said, thus replicating something like Makati’s Ayala Triangle Gardens and Greenbelt Park or Bonifacio Global City’s Bonifacio High Street.

ALI is likewise in talks with the government to develop an inter-modal transportation hub within the area that seeks to integrate bus systems with the elevated railways under the Metro Railway Transit system. Aquino said this would seamlessly link to both MRT3 (along EDSA) and potentially, the upcoming MRT7 (from North Avenue EDSA to Bulacan), to help build a “very pedestrian friendly” urban center.

Aquino also highlighted ALI’s thrust to build a “sustainable” and “eco-efficient” urban development by using the latest technology in storm water management. “In Vertis North, as in all other Ayala Land developments, we make sure that we do not contribute to the problem further by actively reducing the occurrence of flooding,” Aquino said.

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